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SIMPLE TRUTHS AND PERSONAL GLIMPSES

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BY STEVE DUNN

      Have you ever felt like Calvin?  Our lives have grown so complicated filling with so many things that we “must” be doing; that when we try doing something unnecessary, it is easily spoiled by a sense of guilt.  Or worse, by the recriminations of those who consider our choices frivolous and self-indulgent. Some of us have lives so filled with responsibilities that we feel compelled to take our work with us on vacation. I know that at times I definitely resemble that last comment.

Solomon once wrote, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” He follows that with a wonderful list of examples.  I often wish he had included “a time to work and a time to goof off.”

Actually, God Himself did say it.  In the Creation account found in Genesis 1-2, we read: Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” – Genesis 2:1-2 NIV

Christians and Jews call that seventh day “Sabbath.”  Before we became so compulsive about work (even working at our play), the seventh day was intended for rest.  Mark Buchanan says that the test of activity on Sabbath is “Is it necessary?”  If it is necessary, do it in the first six days.  If it’s not necessary, then enjoy it … and don’t feel guilty about it.

Tim Hansel in his excellent book When I Relax I Feel Guilty suggests that we need to find a pace on those other six where we can even take “minute vacations” (short breaks) where the purpose is to do the “nothing” that refreshes us.

The nothing you want to do has a place in your life.  If it does not then maybe you need to start simplifying your life.  I know I’m working on it.

© 2018  by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to http://www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

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BY STEVE DUNN

This is a milestone blog. It is the one thousandth time I have posted as LIFE MATTERS. March 3, 2009 was the first offering and spoke of the perception that many persons possess that Christians have closed minds. I hope if you have been reading this blog for any period of time that you have come to the realization that at least one Christian has an open mind.

Now if you think being open-minded means that you think everyone’s opinion is correct or that you should never challenge someone’s ignorance, narrow-mindedness, or prejudices … I do not fit that definition of open-mindedness. As one humorist once wrote, “Some people’s minds are so open that their brains are in danger of falling out.”

As a Christian, I adhere to the belief that it is not my job to persuade people to my understanding. Particularly, as it relates to Truth, persuasion is God’s job not mine. As Ravi Zacharias, Christian apologist, has said about the most important truth there is—that we belong to God. “My job is not to persuade people to agree with me. My job is to simply get them to open their minds. The Holy Spirit does the persuading.”

There is clearly a way of looking at the world that believes God’s truth is unimportant, optional, or even wrong. That way of thinking I believe leads us to be persons who are handicapped in our daily living. It is sort of like walking through a pitch-black room without knowing where the furniture is. Our ignorance is going to get us into trouble. And if there is an open trap door in the floor, crossing that room can prove fatal.

God’s truth applies to every aspect of our lives—business, political, relational and more. Ignoring God’s truth is a dangerous and faulty choice. Paul the apostle of God once wrote: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2

It is my hope and prayer as I move into the next 1000 posts that I can help the process of renewing our mind.

© 2018 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com 

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By Steve Dunn

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I love this cartoon. I share its sentiments.  I never have met a fruitcake I liked. I think most fruit cakes are better suited as a door stop. I have no one I dislike so much that I would inflict a fruitcake upon them; although I confess that in my early adulthood I did “re-gift” a fruitcake to someone who actually wanted one and was disappointed that no one had given them.  (I think they are still my friend.)

Although a fruitcake is not a person and does not have feelings, I sometimes wonder if my contemptuous dismissal of its attraction and value to someone doesn’t say something negative about me as a person.  Something that might create a hole in my heart as a Christ-followers.

The Bible tells me that sin deserves my contempt but not the sinner.   Although God does not want us to remain in our sin because it ultimately results in our spiritual death, He does not stop loving the sinner. There is no contempt towards the person in the words recorded in John 13:17, “For God did not send His Son into the world condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

 Harboring contempt towards persons for whom Christ died is the first step towards a judgmentalism that stops seeing the value that Christ sees in them.

So maybe I need to give the lowly fruitcake a break.

© 2017 by Stephen L. Dunn.  You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to http://www.drstevedunn.com.  For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

This post originally appeared on this blog the summer of 2013.  In three days I head out for vacation and am trying to take the advice in its words, so I thought I’d repost it for you. = STEVE

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BY STEVE DUNN
“First day of Summer supper: Hot dogs, corn on the cob, and sliced tomatoes!!!”
This is what my friend Kay Royer Cocklin posted on her Facebook page yesterday afternoon.  My first response was, “Oh! Yes!!!!!” Made me sad that I had already eaten a bowl of cereal for supper. (My wife is out of town being a grandmother-in-residence and I was too tired after mowing to get very creative.)
Simple things–hot dogs, corn on the cob, sliced tomatoes.  Readily accessible to most of us in America. Better than most things you would have popped into a microwave.  A whole lot cheaper than a steak. Except maybe for the hot dogs, a whole lot healthier, too.
Simple pleasures that those of us who have experienced them–quite satisfying.
Choosing the simple and taking pleasure from it tends to be a counter-cultural concept in 21st century America. Smart phones, smart cars, smart houses, constant digital connection, designer clothes, beds with dual comfort controls, specially manufactured golf clubs, 200 channels of satellite TV–the list goes on and grows more complicated by the second.
And so often those things carry complications that drain the last ounce of simplicity from our lives and replace it anxiety and aggravation.  Ever try to talk to cable company computer?  What happens when your smart car enters a dumb phase?  How much will it cost you to fix it? Do you really have to be available to every human being via phone every moment of your day?  Do the manufactured clubs feel any better when you miss the put or shank the drive?  Do you ever stop working to pay for your smart home long enough to actually be in it?
Don’t all the options of life at times just get overwhelming?  Don’t you simply run so much that you find yourself in a rat race where the rats are winning?
Don’t say “no” because I know you’re lying – to yourself as well as me.
Donald Miller writes:  “It is always the simple things that change our lives. And these things never happen when you are looking for them to happen.  Life will reveal answers at the pace life wishes to do so. You feel like running, but life is a stroll.  This is how God does things.”

I pretty much missed the first day of summer because I let myself embrace the complicated.  I put too many things in my schedule.  I didn’t stop to savor the sunshine or read a good book.  In fact, I didn’t even look at the calendar to notice that it was the first day of summer.  Ironically, it was my sabbath, my day of rest and refreshment and instead I filled it with the things that I hadn’t gotten done on my work days.

And I forgot the hot dogs, corn on the cob, and sliced tomatoes.  Didn’t pay much attention to God either.

My loss.

(C) 2103 by Stephen Dunn

Permission is given to repost or quote provided this copyright notice is included and a link provided to this blogsite. The courtesy of an email with a link to its reposting or a copy of the work it is quoted in would be appreciated.

 

4-11-1954

BY STEVE DUNN

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for … These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,  since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. – Hebrews 11.1-2, 39-40

A lot of us live by wishful thinking.  We say and do things that reflect a basic denial of reality.  I cannot tell you how many times as a pastor I heard someone say,”I know what you’re saying, but my experience is different.  I am an exception to that rule.”  Usually what they were saying was, “I want to do what I want to do, but don’t want to be held accountable for my choices.

Before someone accuses me of being a hypocrite or Pharisee,I need to confess something.  Diabetes runs in my family.  Almost 20 years ago my doctors dropped the adjective “borderline” from their diagnosis.  They told me how to combat it, particularly the importance of diet.

I really didn’t make that many changes, except to slow down on regular soft-drinks. I would eat carefully for a few days and then in times of boredom or at buffets, I would abandon all boundaries.  Now hundreds of milk shakes later, I find myself taking drastic measures to get that diabetes under control.

Wishful thinking can be very dangerous, especially when God has made it clear that only His way works.  There are no exceptions to his rules.

But one of his rules is “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  In our faith life some of us are so grounded in being practical or realistic that we think that only the things man controls are to be pursued.  Comfort zones are where we choose to live.  Walking on water is for Jesus and foolish humans. After all, look what happened to Peter.

The problem with that is that God Who always keeps His promises feels no need to provide instant gratification and whose rewards which are eternal start closer to eternity than the present moment.

Be careful of wishful thinking.  If it is contrary to God’s word or way of acting – it is foolishness, often tragically so.

But when God says let go, look beyond, follow me – the foolishness is in our comfort-zone, control-obsessed response.

© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com

 

By Steve Dunn

Watching the news lately, I have grown tired, very tired. I am tired of ….

Politicians who demonize people and political positions with which they disagree.

Politicians who spin or even ignore the truth that is inconvenient to them but who insist on

accountability and even punishment for others who do the same.

Politicians who believe that they are above the need for civility and respect towards others.

Politicians who demand absolute conformity and support from people who work for them even

when they are wrong.

Politicians who put their mouth in motion before their mind is in gear.

Politicians who don’t know when to simply keep their thoughts to themselves

Politicians who worship political correctness but who believe people who do not agree with

their definition should ostracized.

Politicians who believe that character is a private matter.

Politicians who do not know how to choose their battles.

Politicians who believe people should never question their motives or integrity.

Politicians who believe they are always right.

Political supporters who support these “leaders” unquestioningly and pounce on those who dare to question their pet politician.

Political supporters who always assume the other side is lying.

Political supporters who justify these actions by saying the other side does it, too.

Neither these political leaders nor their uncritical supporters do our nation a service.

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BY STEVE DUNN

I have been in the ministry for 45 years–starting as a youth pastor back in 1971. Since 2008, I have added teaching graduate students in a seminary to my resume. Since last January I have added teaching history to high school students from Korea to my professional mix. I am about to do both again. Monday Morning Reflections this week is late because I am busy completing syllabi, lesson plans and initial lessons for high schools kids (9th, 10th and 11th graders) and seminarians (only God knows some of their ages and it would be ecclesiastically/politically incorrect to ask). High school starts next Monday, seminary two weeks later.

At this moment I am firmly reminded of the words of Solomon, an ancient wise man of centuries ago:

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As they say in my profession: “That’ll preach.” And so far that is true just for the instructor. It will soon be the lament of my students and their compatriots.

Yet as I wade through all the paperwork and other preparations, it is a labor of love. It is also a critical endeavor. Knowledge is the beginning of power and ignorance is not bliss, it is dangerous.

Education provides knowledge, but more than that–the discipline of learning and the accountability needed not only to get a good grade but to live life with competence, confidence, and significance.

Knowing the details of early American politics may not come into daily usefulness for all of my high schoolers, any more than the nuances of biblical interpretation for my seminarians. But the process of learning with its requirement to live by standards of excellence and to use that learning with integrity are survival values for society and the Church.

I love my students too much to let them be wallow in ignorance, shackled by laziness, and handicapped by an uninformed life. And I love our nation, our world, and the Kingdom of God not to do my part in educating.

So now–back to the preparations. May they bear much fruit which will last.

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© 2016 by Stephen L. Dunn. You have permission to reprint this provided it is unchanged, proper authorship is cited, it is in a publication not for sale, and a link is provided to this site or to http://www.drstevedunn.com. For all other uses, contact Steve at sdunnpastor@gmail.com